The last month of autumn might seem the wrong month for thinking about tomatoes. Happy days of tomato and chive sandwiches with different coloured cherry tomatoes from our garden are well and truly finished, and there are no more meals accompanied by our favourite zucchini, tomato and basil stew.
But I bought myself some time by popping the last of our tomatoes in the fridge while I decided what to do with them. I was thinking of one last closing number to refrigerate or freeze and give us a hit of tomatoes in the middle of winter.
Each year something different takes my fancy. In the past I’ve made jars of kasoundi, or pasta sauce that we call ‘vegetarian bolognese’. This year I decided to make a big tray of oven-dried tomatoes that are covered in oil in the fridge and ready to be put to use in another favourite pasta sauce with spinach and anchovies, or chopped and spread in toasted sandwiches. And I’ve also made two little jars of tomato pesto for quick lunch pastas or open toasted sandwiches with avocado. Mmmmm.
The very last thing I decided to make was one more batch of tomato sambal (I’d already made one batch, but we’ve almost eaten it all). Have you ever tried this? It’s like an intense, fragrant, spicy tomato paste, and it was new to me until I came across it in a book I edited a few years ago called Bali: The food of my island home by Janet De Neefe. I’ll rave about this book to anyone who wants to listen! The food is so fresh, flavoursome and healthy, and in the introduction to the tomato sambal recipe, Janet says: ‘If you only make one dish from this cookbook, let this be the one!’ I was sold.
Janet goes on to say: ‘Try it with eggs in any shape or size, grilled fat sausages, fish or any meat, roasted eggplant, tofu or tempeh – not to mention stirred into risotto or homemade mayonnaise or basted over barbecued prawns.’
I’ve increased the quantity of the recipe because it’s not much extra effort, and a few containers in the freezer equals easy dinners. I’ve also reduced the chilli to suit our kids, but you might want to reduce it even more, or possibly spice it up!
Our favourite ways to eat tomato sambal are stir-fried through spinach or other Asian greens, or with tofu or eggplant. For greens, stir-fry them until just wilted, then add the sambal and stir-fry for a few minutes longer. For tofu, stir-fry until lightly golden before adding the sambal, and for eggplant, stir-fry a good while until nice and soft, then add the sambal. Finish with kecap manis and lime juice (or lemon) to taste, and enjoy with rice.
1 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
9 shallots, roughly chopped
12 garlic cloves
4 long red chillies, roughly chopped (I use cayenne chillies and include the seeds)
1 small red chilli, roughly chopped (optional)
slice of shrimp paste equivalent to 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons salt
125 ml oil such as rice bran or sunflower oil
Combine the ingredients other than the oil in a food processor and puree.
Heat the oil in a wok and pour in the tomato mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a fairly thick paste that dollops from the spoon. This takes around 15–20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. You might want to add a little sugar if the tomatoes were not very sweet to begin with.
The sambal will store for a week in the refrigerator, or can be frozen in portions.
Makes 3–4 cups sambal, which is enough for 3–4 dishes